Lakeland’s Strongest – Bringing a new sport to the Bush

One thing I found lacking while growing up was the lack of exposure to different sports. It was n grade nine that I started getting out of my comfort zone and playing sports. I was, of course, limited to school sports. I thrived in the environment though and made some amazing lifelong friends, as well as gained confidence and a quiet resolve that I didn’t know I had.

Fast forward a few years. I’m in my final year of University and my friend convinces me to go check out a “weightlifting club.” I went in not knowing what to expect but I was filled with fear and bravery and I was introduced to a new passion and love. I previously didn’t know what weightlifting was (or “olympic weightlifting”) but after training at Olympic Power and Fitness in Edmonton, I became hooked. I started posted videos on my social media and in turn I was able to expose some people back home on the rez to the sport. I remember wishing so much that I had been exposed to this sport growing up, as it would have helped so much in building strength to play basketball, volleyball, and compete in track and field. After I finished school, I moved back home and invested in buying equipment for myself. Recently I found myself facing the same fear and bravery as I got introduced to yet another new sport. Strongman. I competed in my first Strongman competition this weekend and what a wild, fun ride it was! Unfortunately, here in the bush, there isn’t a club I could go train at to practice so, with other brave souls, I went in with zero experience.

Me, attempting the log press but unable to rack it. Glad for my mobility though.

The first annual Lakeland’s Strongest was held in Ashmont, AB and it was part of a fundraiser put on by and for my friend Ashley Albert-Hunter. Ashley recently underwent an invasive surgery to take out a fist sized cancerous mass from her colon. The fundraiser is to help alleviate the financial burden that her recover entails.  Ashley is only 29 and she hoped the event would raise awareness about colon cancer (and increase self-advocacy) as well as introduce Strongman to the local community. She was definitely successful in doing so! The event had 16 competitors, with 11 of them being new to Strongman, and all of them saying they want to compete again next year (me being one of them).


For this year’s event the competitors competed in 5 events: log press, axle deadlift, yoke carry, truck pull, and stone carry. All the competitors showed fierce determination and drive to compete and do well. I remember going in so scared and fearful of failure, but I’m glad I pushed passed those fears. It was a challenge for sure and the first event really showed how important it is to have the proper equipment to train with in order to be successful (I couldn’t do the log press). A group of us want to do what we can to be better prepared for next year’s event and are hoping to pool some money together so we can invest in equipment for our community or a little club (as well as weightlifting equipment). Just being exposed to the Strongman sport and community lit a little spark and thirst in all of us. I remember sitting there, and thinking how cool is it that we have these nehiyawak from our communities being so strong and many really keeping up with people much more experienced. It made me think of how talented our people are, if given the chance to show their strength. I cant wait to see what next year brings.

Joel Dubeau, truck pull.

Another amazing aspect of the strongman event was the Evolve fitness community that came out of Edmonton to help host the event, as well as judge. With them they brought some of their club competitors and their welcoming and friendly attitude are definitely huge aspects of what helped us new people face our fears, as well as influenced our desire to continue to become a part of the strongman community. A lot of us went in not knowing what we were doing and there was no judgement from the experienced competitors, and coaches. Instead we were given huge amounts of encouragement and tips on what would give us the most success in each event. They are what really made this event such a success.

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Janelle Starrlight-Crane, women’s car pull.
Janelle, stone carry.

As for the fundraiser, they were able to raise over $14,000 (there was also a dinner and dance in the evening) which I know will help so much as Ashley has two young sons and went from working non-stop to being unable to even walk right after her surgery. She still has a long road of recovery but she is someone who epitomized determination, positivity, and hard work and I have no doubt she’ll be posting big number at next year’s Lakeland’s Strongest.

Volunteers in the grey, competitors in black for Lakeland’s Strongest 2018.

 – claudine

To find out more about colon cancer please visit: Find out the symptoms and talk to your doctor about getting screened. Find a family doctor for yourself, I urge you! Create a medical history for yourself and your children. No one will do this for you. 

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